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AN EXTREMELY RARE THREE-TIERED JADE CONG
AN EXTREMELY RARE THREE-TIERED JADE CONG
AN EXTREMELY RARE THREE-TIERED JADE CONG
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AN EXTREMELY RARE THREE-TIERED JADE CONG
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AN EXTREMELY RARE LIANGZHU CONGThe jades of Liangzhu Culture abound in number, diversity, and excel in craftsmanship as some of the most illustrious jade artefacts in the history of Chinese civilization. Among the many types of jades of the Liangzhu Culture, the jade cong are the most distinctive.Liangzhu jade cong have a square outer section and a circular inner hollow. Each corner serves as a vertical axis over which a symmetrical mask motif is carved. The cong are only type of Liangzhu jades with decoration. The early cong were mainly squat, featuring exquisite deity-or animal-stylised carved details while the later ones were mostly thin and tall with simplified facial features dominated by the eyes and nose.The present cong is an exceptional treasure of the Liangzhu Culture.Covered with some light ochre earth encrustations, the vessel has some minor wear on two of the edge with alterations in chicken-bone white colour. The quality of the stone is superb with some bluish crystalline spots and russet speckles. The stone is semi-translucent in a few areas. The present cong is of square section with rounded corners with a large circular aperture through the middle. Drilled from both ends, the large central aperture is enclosed by relatively thin walls. The inner section of the walls has been carefully polished and slightly convex.The top and bottom collars around the aperture are consistent in size. Gouged channels run vertically along the middle of the four sides with slightly convex surfaces. The four corners of the vessel provide the central axes and the horizontal gauges divide the vessel into three tiers. The first tier shows a humanoid-deity mask wearing a headdress. The headdress is represented by two horizontal raised ridges each engraved with five or six parallel lines in intaglio, bordering a band filled with oblong spirals. Below the headdress are the facial features of the mask with the double-circles representing the eyes. The outer circles of the eyes are drilled using tubular tools, while the inner circles are incised. The corners of the eyes are incised with additional triangular elements. Low-relief technique was employed to carve the slightly projecting wide nose filled with three sets of cloud-scrolls.The second tier is carved with an animal mask in shallow relief. The double circles drilled by tubular tools are larger than those of the humanoid-deity masks. The main distinguishing feature is the oval eyelid on the outer edge of each eye, which is filled with finely incised cloud-scrolls and connected to each other by an arched beam. The nose is similarly carved using shallow relief much like that on the humanoid-deity mask. The imagery of tier one and tier two merges to form a humanoid-deity and animal combined mask that is essentially a simplified representation of a ‘Liangzhu Shaman’.The humanoid-deity mask incised on the third tier is identical to that on the first tier. Most of the cong from the early Liangzhu Culture have one of the following configurations: single-tier (one humanoid-deity mask), double-tier (one humanoid-deity and animal combined mask), or four-tier (two humanoid-deity and animal combined masks). A three-tiered cong like the present example comprising one humanoid-deity and animal combined mask with an additional humanoid-deity mask are remarkably rare. According to archaeological reports, only four such three-tiered Liangzhu jade cong have been discovered to date.The first one is the jade cong found at the Fanshan Site in Yuhang, Zhejiang (No. Yu-Fan M17:2)1 (fig. 1). Its overall form, configuration, and the style of humanoid-deity and animal combined masks are almost identical to those found on the present cong. However, it lacks the finely incised cloud-scrolls between the two projected bars and on the eyelids of the animal masks. The second is the jade cong discovered at the Yaoshan Site in Yuhang, Zhejiang (No. Yu 2842)2 (fig. 2). Other than being smaller in size, this jade cong is nearly identical to the previous example discovered at the Fanshan Site.The third example is the jade cong excavated at the Yaoshan Site in Yuhang, Zhejiang (No. Yaoshan M12:7)3 (fig. 3). It is similar to the present cong in size, but with a smaller central aperture and thus thicker and heavier walls. The configuration of the masks is nearly identical to the two previous examples, but the eyelids of the animal masks are filled with cloud-scrolls just like on the present cong. Of all the documented Liangzhu jade cong, the third example shares the highest resemblance to the present cong. However, careful comparison of the two reveals that the incised decorations are much finer on the present cong. The fourth is the jade cong unearthed from the Wujiachang Cemetery at the Fuquanshan Site in Qingpu, Shanghai (No. M204:15)4 (fig. 4). This cong is made of high-quality jade in light fawn brown tone with some darker patches of excellent translucency. It has the same configuration and incised details as the present cong with the addition of mythical birds with pointed beaks, long necks, and large wings flanking the humanoid-deity mask on the second tier. Such mythical birds are less commonly found on Liangzhu jades although they have appeared on a two-tiered cong discovered at Fuquanshan M9:215 (fig. 5).All the five three-tiered examples hereto mentioned are squat with the height smaller than the outer diametre of the mouth, and have highly similar incised decorations. However, the present jade cong bears exquisite cloud-scrolls on the eyelids of the animal masks, and only the Yuhang Yaoshan M12:7 jade cong has achieved such a level of craftsmanship. According to the author’s non-exhaustive statistics, the number of Liangzhu jade cong in public and private collections worldwide totals around 200, of which only six are three-tiered (the sixth example is described below). Judging from their forms, decorations and carving techniques and relevant archaeological data, these five Liangzhu jade cong were made by the early Liangzhu Culture and belonged to the nobility of the highest rank.Superb quality, distinctive form, ingenious composition, and extraordinary workmanship make the current cong a treasure among Liangzhu jades!Note: Another three-tiered Liangzhu jade cong was excavated at Tomb No. 12 at the Fanshan Site in Yuhang, Zhejiang (No. Yu-Fan M12:97)6 (fig. 6). This jade cong is lean and tall, with height greater than the outer diameter of the mouth. Although it is three-tiered with similar configuration, the incised decorations are much cruder and distinguishably different from the other jade cong described above.Note1 Zhejiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, “Fanshan”, Wen Wu Chubanshe (Cultural Relics Press), 2005, first edition.2 Zhejiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, “Yaoshan”, Wen Wu Chubanshe (Cultural Relics Press), 2003, first edition.3 Shen Dexiang of Yuhang County Cultural Management Association: “Archaeological Briefing of Anxi Yaoshan Tomb No. 12 in Yuhang County, Zhejiang Province”, Dongnan Wenhua (Southeastern Culture), May 1988.4 Fuquanshan Archaeological Team, “Excavation of Wujiachang Cemetery at the Fuquanshan Site in Shanghai”, Zhongguo Wen Wu Bao (China Cultural Relics), October 21, 2011.5 Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Committee, “Fuquanshan”, Wen Wu Chubanshe (Cultural Relics Press), October 2000, first edition.6 Zhejiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, “Fanshan”, Wen Wu Chubanshe (Cultural Relics Press), 2005, first edition.Wang MingdaWang Mingda was born in Suzhou in 1943 and graduated from the Department of History with a concentration in archaeology from Peking University in 1966. He has since devoted his career to pre-historic archaeology, having served as the team leader of many major archaeological excavations, most notably those of Liangzhu Culture at Fanshan, Yaoshan (collaboration), Huiguanshan, Mojiaoshan, and Tangshan, as well as excavations in the Jiaxing, Huzhou, Zhoushan, and Shaoxing areas. He was appointed as a Researcher at the Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute of Zhejiang Province in 1992. He had served as the Director of the Chinese Society of Archaeology, and the Vice-Chairman of the Jade Specialty Committee of the Chinese Society of Cultural Relics. He is currently a consultant for the Jade Specialty Committee of the Chinese Society of Cultural Relics, and a Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Jade Culture Research Association of Zhejiang Province.
AN EXTREMELY RARE THREE-TIERED JADE CONG

LIANGZHU CULTURE, CIRCA 3300-2300 BC

Details
AN EXTREMELY RARE THREE-TIERED JADE CONG
LIANGZHU CULTURE, CIRCA 3300-2300 BC
The cong is of rounded square cross-section. The exterior is divided into three registers by horizontal gouges, each register is incised with a mask motif to each of the four corners. The masks on the upper and lower registers are nearly identical with incised eyes above the mouth with fine cloud-scrolls and below a headdress with two horizontal ridges bordering a band of alternating cloud-scrolls and criss-cross pattern. The masks in the central register are more ornate and represent an animal mask with similar mouth below scroll-filled ovoid eyes with plain cicular centres joined by an arched area of similar scrolls.
3 1/16 in. (7.8 cm.) high, box
Provenance
Jinhuatang Collection, acquired in Hong Kong in 1997

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